Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 1080UB review update

OK! CES is over, and I’m back to the “grind.” In this case, the grind is primarily finishing up the HC-1080UB projector review. I’m going to keep this somewhat short (for me), and with the review scheduled to publish Friday night – 11/18/08, I don’t want to give away the whole story here. However! I’ve been getting pounded by emails, all saying – when will the review be out, so I can decide between the Epson and this projector or that one.

First of all, this Epson is an outstanding projector. The last time I was this enthused about a projector was almost certainly the JVC DLA-RS1, almost a year ago. Prior to that, (and despite it’s limitations as a low cost 720p projector), the Panasonic PT-AX100U, some 15 months ago. Since those two, I’ve been impressed by a number of projectors, including the newer JVC RS2, but in cases like that, I’m seeing a new model which improves a bit over a predecessor. Not so with the Home Cinema 1080UB, and its sibling, the Pro Cinema 1080UB. These two (my comments on the Pro, are based on the Home version projector), are a major step up over their predecessors. They’ve crossed the threshold to enthusiast class projectors, that will appeal to purists.

Let me put it this way. With the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, the long standing advantage of black level performance (the “Holy Grail” for many hard core enthusiasts and “purists”), by DLP projectors has just ended. The Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, not only matches the black level performance of most of the 1080p DLP’s, but exceeds it. Simply put, the better the black levels, the darker the areas that are supposed to be black, and near black. No fixed pixel projector (everything but CRT), can actually “produce” black, the best they can do are very, very, dark grays, and that varies a lot.

All my usual review image photos have been taken, and this evening I’ll be doing analysis and comparing those images with those of the competition to really nail down how good the black level and shadow detail performance of the Home and Pro Cinema 1080UB’s are, compared to DLP, other LCD, and even the LCoS projectors. As of right now, it is an LCoS projector (liquid crystal on silicon – a reflective – rather than transmissive, variation of LCD technology), that offers the best black levels, and the champ is the JVC DLA-RS2. FYI: JVC calls their LCoS D-iLA, Sony calls theirs SXRD. After the RS2, next best seems to be the RS1, with the Sony VW60 close behind. Next, and possibly better than the two Sony projectorss (almost certainly the equal or better than the VW50 Pearl), comes the Epson, and that means I think it is at least the equal of the best known single chip 1080 DLP projectors as well! That’s pretty sensational for a projector that is selling for under $2800 (US$) (Home Cinema version) right out of the gate! (more on the Pro version below). And that’s saying a lot.

If that isn’t enough, the Epson is bright. In best mode, Theatre Black 1, it puts out about 450 lumens, and even after “taming” dynamic a little to maintain the brightest image, while improving the color balance, it managed over 1500 lumens in Dynamic mode. The difference in brightness between the Epson, and my RS1, this past weekend for football viewing, had me just loving the Epson’s extra lumens. Switching to movie watching, when I viewed Casino Royale segments first on one, then on the other, I could barely tell the differences in black levels and shadow details (but yes the JVC had the advantage). OK, beyond that, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB looks and cooks like the older Home Cinema 1080, with almost no changes. It does support 1080/24fps while I seem to recall, the older model didn’t. That’s a real plus as well.

I don’t think the Epson will support an anamorphic lens, but still checking on that. And that brings me to the Pro Cinema 1080UB. The key differences are:

  • Black case instead of pearl white
  • Higher price point ($3999 with spare lamp and mount), vs $2999 less $200 rebate, for the HC1080UB
  • Different Presets, i.e. Silverscreen instead of Theater Black1… (smoke and mirrors?)
  • ISF Certified. (Better color out of the box – that was the case last year, I haven’t seen a new “Pro”)
  • Two extra modes for ISF Day, Night
  • A 3rd year warranty!

The Pro is sold by local CEDIA type installing dealers, the kind that will also calibrate your projector to your room and other gear, while the Home version is available from select online resellers and some “big box houses”. I hate to say it, but if someone swapped out my RS1, even with it’s minor advantages, and replaced it with a “UB”, you’ld hardly hear a complaint out of me. I’m that impressed!

OK? Enough? Back to finishing up the review (which of course will repeat much of this). -art